Nahoft app: Iranians' way to escape government control over the internet

The Iranian regime continues to tighten restrictions on Iranians access to the Internet and social media. Amid an unprecedented increase in the Iranian government’s control over the Internet, and its subjection to extensive operations of censorship and blocking, it has recently become popular among Iranians to use the “Nahoft” application, which means “hidden” in Persian; To encrypt their messages in innovative ways that enable them to communicate freely.

The aforementioned application encrypts up to 1000 characters of the text of the messages that Iranians want to exchange with each other, whether at home or abroad, and converts them into a mixture of random characters; To prevent the security services from understanding its content. After encrypting the message to be sent through this technology, it can be sent through regular chat applications, such as WhatsApp, Google Chat, and Telegram, and then the recipient through Nahoft also decrypts the message.

“Nahoft” was released last week on Google Play by “United for Iran” or “United for Iran”, a human rights group based in San Francisco, In addition to encrypting text messages, the Nahoft app can encrypt communications and embed them in image files, a technique known as “steganography.” The Nahoft (open source) application also has an additional advantage, that it can be used without the Internet, once you download it and adjust its settings on your device, you can work effectively.

The unprecedented feature aims to avoid the Iranian regime cutting off Internet services, as happened before that in several specific regions, most notably for an entire week in November 2019. In the event that the Internet service is not available, just enter the encrypted message to the application and it will decrypt it as usual.

In this regard, Firouzeh Mahmoudi, Executive Director of "United for Iran" commented, "When the Internet is cut off in Iran, people cannot communicate with their families inside and outside the country." “For activists, the internet cut means everything has stopped tragically,” added Mahmoudi, who lived through the Iranian revolution in 1979 and left the country when she was 12.

In Iran, more than 57 million of the population of 83 million are connected and using the Internet permanently, but in recent years, the country has focused heavily on developing a centralized Internet, known as the “National Information Network” or “Shoma.” That network is increasingly giving the government the ability to filter and sensor data and block certain services, from social networks to circumvention tools and VPNs. But according to Reza Ghazinuri, a strategic advisor to United for Iran: “It would be difficult for the Iranian government to ban Nahoft; Because the Google Play Store is still available there.”

He added, “Iranian monitoring cannot know which applications users download,” noting that “so far, the Nahoft application has been downloaded 4300 times.” Ghazinori commented, “It is possible that the Iranian government will eventually develop its own app store and ban its international counterparts, as China has done, but at the moment, this possibility seems out of reach,” as he put it.

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